As pink cherry blossoms snowed down on a delightfully cool and windy April morning, my wife Lisa took advantage of the majestic scenery to practice some yoga poses. Even our Cockapoo, George got into the picture!
But as it turns out, yoga can be of great benefit to your heart and overall well-being. Here are 5 good reasons:
- Yoga reduces blood pressure: A large recent analysis of 49 trials found that when yoga was practiced 3 times each week for 1 hour, blood pressure levels fell by an average of 11 mmHg in systolic (top number) and 6 mm Hg in diastolic (bottom number) over a 3 month period. In each 60 min session, approximately 30 minutes was spent on physical postures, 15 min on breathing techniques and 15 min on mediation and relaxation exercises. This blood pressure lowering benefit is equivalent to being prescribed a blood pressure medication!
- Yoga reduces inflammation: Another review found that the equivalent of practicing yoga for 16 hours (such as 2 sessions a week for 1 hour over a 2-month period) reduces inflammation commonly associated with chronic medical conditions.
- Yoga improves heart-rate variability: Heart-rate variability tests the ability of your heart to adapt to and respond to stress (both mental and physiologic). For example, after a heart-based stress test, a healthy heart reverts quickly from the fast heart rate induced during the test to normal levels during recovery. By improving heart-rate variability, yoga practitioners have hearts that are well conditioned and more readily adaptable to daily stressors.
- Yoga improves balance and stability: A number of studies have demonstrated improvement in balance and stability that would be particularly important in older men and women. In fact, yoga has been shown to reduce the risk of falling in those with physical and other age-related impairments.
- Yoga reduces stress: Yoga reduces blood levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and may help those living with anxiety and stress. If you’ve never tried yoga, now is the time to do it as benefits apply to anyone and everyone interested in good health and well-being.
- Michael Miller, MD is Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland and author of “Heal Your Heart: The Positive Emotions Prescription to Prevent & Reverse Heart Disease” published by Penguin Random House.